Interval Cryotherapy and Fatigue in University Baseball Pitchers

By Verducci, Frank M. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Interval Cryotherapy and Fatigue in University Baseball Pitchers


Verducci, Frank M., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


Key words: cold, ice, work, velocity

Baseball pitchers consistently work to delay the onset of fatigue and improve pitching efficiency. Skill development, weight training, cardiorespiratory exercises, and stretching are just a few of the many activities used to enhance pitchers' performance. Typically, ice or cryotherapy (cold therapy) factors into the performance of baseball pitchers, many of whom ice their shoulders and arms for a minimum of 20 mm after completing a game as well as between games. Most baseball pitchers recognize that ice can decrease recovery time. However, little is known about the potential benefits of interval cryotherapy applied between innings of a baseball game. This study investigates applying cryotherapy to the shoulder, upper arm, and elbow for 3 mm between innings.

Local applications of cryotherapy from 5-30-mm lowered muscle temperature and delayed the onset of work fatigue (Chastain, 1978; Clarke, Hellon, & Lind, 1958; Edwards et al., 1952; Galloway & Maughan, 1997; Grose, 1958; King, Mendryk, Reid, & Kelly, 1970; Knight, 1985, 1995; Lind, 1959; McGowan, 1967; Olschewski & Bruck, 1988; vanBeek, 1975). Several researchers (Clarke et al., 1958; Galloway & Maughan, 1997; Grose, 1958; Lind, 1959; Olschewski & Bruck, 1988) indicated that the longest duration of work occurred when the average muscle temperature was near or slightly below 27[degrees]C. Both higher and lower muscle temperature resulted in a decrease in the duration of the contractions. Higher temperatures resuited in a significantly faster onset of work fatigue (Chastain, 1978; Edwards et al., 1952; Grose, 1958;), while mildly cold applications resulted in significantly longer work periods (McGowan, 1967; vanBeek, 1975). Extremely cold applications produced less work (Clarke et al, 1958; Edwards et al., 1952 ; Grose, 1958; Lind, 1959). One investigator(King et al., 1970) obtained a higher performance by increasing temperature.

Later researchers (Berg & Ekblom, 1979; Carlos, 1991; Clarke & Royce, 1962; Cornwall, 1994; Davies, Mecrow, & White, 1982; Davies & Young, 1983; Howard, Kraemer, Stanley, Armstrong, & Maresh, 1994; Mattacola & Perrin, 1993; Oksa, Rintamaeki, & Rissanen, 1997; Sargeant, 1987) studied the effects of cooling and warming on muscle velocity and power. Applying cryotherapy reduced velocities and power (Berg & Ekblom, 1979; Carlos, 1991; Howardet al., 1994; Mattacola & Perrin, 1993; Oksa et al., 1997). Some investigators (Berg & Ekblom, 1979; Davies et al., 1982; Davies & Young, 1983; Mattacola & Perrin, 1993; Sargeant, 1987) reported enhanced performance as a result of warming the musdes. Others (Clarke & Royce, 1962; Cornwall, 1994; Howard et al., 1994) demonstrated that increasing the temperature had little or no effect on subsequent power, and cooling reduced performance. Most investigators who studied the relationship between velocity and warm applications used only one temperature above normal.

Investigators (Hannan et al., 1997) studied the effects of cooling, atmospheric temperature, and heating the shoulder for 20 mm prior to pitching the first inning in baseball. There were no significant differences in velocity or accuracy among the five innings pitched or the three treatments for nonelite pitchers.

The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the effect that icing the arm and shoulder between innings had on pitching fatigue, velocity, and accuracy during simulated baseball games. The hypotheses tested were, "Three minute interval cryotherapy between innings will: (a) delay the onset of fatigue as indicated by the number of inning pitched, (b) increase ball velocity, and (c) maintain ball accuracy as indicated by distance from the target. Previous studies have not examined the use of interval cryotherapy; this study attempts to fill this gap by analyzing the effect of cryotherapy between repeated exercise bouts followed by a short rewarming period. …

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